Shadow Representations

8-Milin’ Identity and De-Blacking Rap Music in South Korea


  • Robert Hamilton Hankuk University of Foreign Studies



hip hop, Korea, race, Black, representation, 8 Mile, identity


In South Korea, rap music has gained increasing popularity and entered the mainstream music industry. Most Koreans, however, interpret rap music beyond its beats. They see it as an African American art rooted in lowbrow American culture and racial subjugation to white society. Rap music in Korea is associated with people who are categorically deemed heug-in, those presumed to be descendants of African Americans or of African heritage. Historically, heug-in-directed racism and discrimination have complicated racial relations in the country. Considering the recent rise in the domestic popularity of rap music and its racialization as a “Black art”, this research explores K-rappers’ relative silence on the racism and racial injustices surrounding their art. It argues that rap music’s history around US military bases, along with K-rappers’ trend of 8-Milin’ their identities, fashion an environment that sustains racism and promotes a general disregard for heug-in. With the inclusion of an interview with iconic K-rap group Garion, the findings suggest that the K-rap industry needs cultural leadership to break the silence on race and racism in the industry and produce an art that reaches beyond market-focus and self-interest.

Author Biography

Robert Hamilton, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

Robert Hamilton is a native of Detroit, Michigan and has lived intermittently in South Korea since 1996. He received a PhD in sociology from Seoul National University and works as an assistant professor of Korean to English interpretation and translation at the Graduate School of Interpretation and Translation at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, South Korea.


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How to Cite

Hamilton, R. (2021). Shadow Representations: 8-Milin’ Identity and De-Blacking Rap Music in South Korea. Journal of World Popular Music, 7(2), 125–144.